Has Our Crush on Cars Run Its Course?

Ashley Halsey III probes the end of America's monogamous love affair with the automobile, as a younger generation experiments with alternative transportation lifestyles.
May 23, 2012, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Influenced in part by economics, partly by the desire to be connected to the Internet at all times, and partly by increased connection to alternative transit options, Americans - especially young ones - are abandoning their automobiles in record numbers. As Halsey notes, "Nationally, the number of miles driven by people younger than 35 dropped by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to research by the think tank Frontier Group. More than a quarter of those in that age group don't own a driver's license."

"'It's not advantageous to have a car, and sometimes it's disadvantageous,' said Kate George, 30, who does most of her travel around the District [of Columbia] on her bike or by Metro. 'It's a lifestyle you get used to, and you see your friends without cars and you realize you don't necessarily need one.'"

Describing a new, platonic, relationship between Americans and their cars, Timothy K. Gilbert, who chairs the automotive marketing department at Northwood University in Florida, says, "When you begin to look at the vehicle as more utilitarian you begin to look at alternatives, because it's only a method of transportation. The way people look at the automobile reflects maybe not uncertainty as much as ambivalence."

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Published on Monday, May 21, 2012 in The Washington Post
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